President José Maria Aznar Receives UN Watch Guardian of Freedom Award

President José Maria Aznar Receives UN Watch Guardian of Freedom Award

His Excellency Jose Maria Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain, receiving UN Watch’s 2010 Guardian of Freedom Award; Joe Tugendhaft (center); and UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer (right). UN Watch annual gala, Hotel des Bergues, Geneva, May 27, 2010.

“Leadership on the World Stage”
Remarks by President José Maria Aznar
on receiving the 2010 UN Watch Guardian of Freedom Award
UN Watch Annual Gala, Geneva, May 27, 2010

Dear Ambassador Moses,
Dear Ambassador Leshno-Yaar,
Dear Ambassador King,
Dear Massouda Jalal,
Dear Mr. Tugendhaft,
Dear guests,

Thank you very much, Mr. Tugendhaft, for your kind words of introduction.

First of all, I would like to thank UN Watch for organizing this wonderful Gala, and to express my deepest appreciation for being recognized today as an advocate of freedom and democracy.

UN Watch is indeed an indispensable organization that deserves high credit for its work. The United Nations was created with a high moral ground in mind, though unfortunately its members have not been always up to the task envisioned by the founding fathers.

The UN needs to watch that the gap between its mandate and its actions is as limited as possible, encouraging the organization to stand up for its values. UN Watch does precisely that with excellence.

To receive this “Guardian of Freedom” award by such a prominent and active organization as UN Watch is a great honor. It is especially moving to be the first recipient of this prize.

I’m especially honored because I have spent my whole life defending freedom and democracy. Terrorism being one of the most pressing threats to freedom, I devoted myself from the very beginning of my political life to fight terrorism.

I always thought that terror could be fought and defeated; that democracies should resist the ever-present temptation of talking and negotiating with terrorists; that leaders should understand that appeasing terror is morally wrong and cannot produce good and long lasting results. Never.

Maybe because of my convictions the ETA terrorist group tried to kill me with a car bomb 15 years ago. And though they ruined my car—a good armored car I should say—they did not rock my convictions.

Anyway, tonight is not the time to give you an advance of my biography. On the contrary, I would like to talk about the future.

We are currently going through very hard times. There is a widespread feeling of crisis and confusion in the face of some new and complex phenomena. Old problems have not disappeared and yet new ones are arising.

History has taught us that under rough times a strong leadership based on the right principles is the most valuable asset. And this is especially harsh in times of crisis, like today, when people are more prone to walk down the easiest path, but perhaps not the right one.

Which are the difficult realities that leadership must face nowadays? In my view, they are the economic crisis, the threats to global security and the challenges to democracy and human rights worldwide. I firmly believe that the three of them are interconnected and that all of them have in common the fact that liberal democracy is at stake.

First, the economic and financial crisis. There is a common trend to blame the market for the current crisis. But, in my opinion, it is the lack of leadership and the decisions taken under wrong principles that lie underneath the origins of the current situation.

Excessive liquidity, brought about by decisions taken by the major central banks, flooded the economy with cheap money and fostered irresponsible practices.

Public policies based on the expansion of government and public spending are at the core of the present debt and deficit nightmares.

Finally, some individual actors forgot that free-market economy is based on responsibility and accountability.

There is only one way out of this crisis: to acknowledge these harsh realities and to undertake the necessary reforms based on the principles of free markets, private entrepreneurs and better, not more, regulation.

I am fully aware that these reforms may be unpopular. That is why strong political leadership is needed. Those who take the easy path of more government, increased public spending and higher intervention will lead us… but only to square one of the next crisis.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It should not come as a surprise if the enemies of free and open societies take advantage of this situation. It is not by chance that those who oppose the free-market economy end up criticizing the principles and values that underpin liberal democracy.

The authoritarian forces and the enemies of democracy have become stronger in the last year and half.

Our current crisis emboldens the enemies of freedom; emboldens those who do not believe in liberty, market economy, democracy or equality; emboldens those who despise societies based on tolerance, individual rights and dignity.

It is not by chance that the threat of nuclear proliferation is more present than ever. The defiance that the Iranian regime is posing to global security in their pursuit for a nuclear weapon is not acceptable.

I do agree that all diplomatic means must be explored in order to avoid conflict, but doing the same over and over again while expecting a different outcome is proving rather ineffective. A psychiatrist may call it delusion. This is not the perfect state of mind when dealing with the brutal regime of the ayatollahs.

A nuclear bomb in the hands of the ayatollahs poses a threat not only to Israel but to the stability of the whole world.

Our friends and allies from Israel are the first ones endangered by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but not the only ones. We should not forget that Iranian missiles can already reach the heart of Europe.

We also need strong leadership to face up to the challenges of global terrorism; leadership to update the security structures that for decades have guaranteed our freedom, such as NATO. We need a solid and renewed alliance to fight and defeat global terrorism.

It is also worrisome to see the growing alliance of authoritarian regimes and theocratic tyrannies around the world. We should pay more attention to what is going on in Latin America, where old dictatorships and their new disciples are taking advantage of our weaknesses to advance on their populist and socialist agendas.

Ambassador Betty King, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, and UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. UN Watch annual gala, Hotel des Bergues, Geneva, May 27, 2010.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To meet all these challenges it is crucial to believe in the values that underpin civilization: the respect for the individual, their life and dignity, open democracy, tolerance and freedom.

Believing in the universal dignity of the individual and their fundamental rights is the only plausible answer to two major challenges to civilization: fundamentalism and relativism. Both are traps we should carefully avoid.

On the one hand, we have the trap of fundamentalisms, where ideologies based on closed and excluding identities want to drag us. That risk is present both in the Islamic world as well as in a significant part of other societies.

On the other hand, there is the trap of relativism, which leads to fragmented societies, lacking the firm principles necessary to set limits to power.

Relativism is corroding the international system from within, starting from the UN. The enemies of freedom have so many times perverted international bodies that somehow we have lost our moral clarity.

This is particularly true when talking about Israel.

It’s not fashionable to speak about Israel in Europe. To speak in defense of Israel only provokes negative reactions. Yet it shouldn’t be that way. The State of Israel was created by a decision of the United Nations and enjoys full legitimacy to exist.

To defend Israel’s right to exist in peace and within secure and defensible borders requires a moral clarity that has mainly gone lost in Europe—this spectre is also looming over the United States.

To place Israel as a key component of the West’s fate means to acknowledge that enemies aren’t chosen according to one’s liking and that the enemies of freedom are out there, hoping to carry out their plans.

To state that Israel has the right to live within secure and defensible borders means to acknowledge the right to have at one’s disposal the necessary tools to ensure one’s own defense since the world in which we live isn’t, unfortunately, the Garden of Eden.

Ambassador Venetia Sebudandi, Perm. Rep. of Rwanda to the UN in Geneva. UN Watch annual gala dinner, Hotel des Bergues, Geneva, May 27, 2010.

To say that Israel, with virtues and flaws, has the right to be treated as is any other liberal democracy, requires that we acknowledge as our own the values and trademarks in which we have been forged throughout the centuries.

At the present time, the West is going through a period of enormous confusion regarding where the world is heading to, and what we want to be in the future. To a great extent, this confusion is caused by the masochistic questioning of our own identity; by the rule of political correctness; by rampant multiculturalism, which forces us to fall to our knees before others; and by an exacerbated secularism, which blinds us when facing the most radical eruption of faith known as jihadism.

To abandon Israel to its fate at this moment would clearly illustrate our inexorable and deeper sinking into that confusion.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

These hard times call for strong leadership. Leadership based on principles, values and vision, but also on the intelligence to use the tools that are at our disposal. It may be pertinent to remember here in Geneva that the United Nations was an organization designed precisely to serve these purposes.

It is time to go back to basics and to be truthful to that wonderful vision that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill set out back in 1941 near the barren shores of Newfoundland.

Thank you very much.

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 Amb. Alfred H. Moses, UN Watch Chair, addresses UN Watch annual gala, Hotel des Bergues, Geneva, May 27, 2010.



The award inscription reads:



His Excellency Jose Maria Aznar, former Spanish Prime Minister; Israeli Ambassador Ronny Leshno-Yaar (center);
Spanish Ambassador and current head of EU presidency at the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Javier Garrigues (right).
UN Watch annual gala, Hotel des Bergues, Geneva, May 27, 2010.


UN Watch